Disputes over employees' rights can tear a workplace apart. It's critical for both sides - employers and employees - to know what intrinsic rights workers hold. Many disputes and confrontations are avoided by simply understanding the law and how it impacts workplace relationships. These same laws can help solve disputes that have already arisen. While employee rights have grown fairly complex over the years, here are four of the most important ones.
Freedom from Discrimination
Employees can't be discriminated against because of a disability, age, gender, race, religious beliefs, and other protected classes. Discrimination includes things like refusing to hire an employee, refusing to give out a hard-earned promotion, cutting wages, cutting hours, or transferring the employee to a less desirable position.
This is a tricky issue, as employees who use company computers need to know they don't have much of a right to privacy on the employer's network. Some companies even monitor employ activity throughout the day to ensure production. However, employees do have a right to privacy when looking at things like personal mail and text messages on a personal cellphone. Work phones may not see the same protections.
The Right to Fair Wages
It's true that employers have a right to set wages as they see fit. They don't have to match the competition just because it's the "going rate" - employees can choose to seek out a different job. However, employers must at least meet minimum wages standards, which are set on both a state and federal level. Though this wage does change, the minimum wage in Wisconsin right now is $7.25 per hour. That's the same as the federal minimum wage, which is set under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Right to Not Fear Retaliation
In some cases, employees may act as whistleblowers. They may report discrimination in the workplace, for instance, or report unsafe conditions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. When this is done, it's illegal for employers to then retaliate against those employees by firing them, reducing wages, or anything else. Employees who are making genuine reports need to feel safe doing so, and employers can't threaten them with termination in an effort to keep them quiet.
A business is successful when the employees and employers are all on the same page and the same team. Understanding basic rights on both sides goes a long way toward creating this professional atmosphere. Those who feel their rights have been violated must know their legal options.